Skip to main content

tv   Panel Discussion on the Vietnam War  CSPAN  May 3, 2014 1:30pm-2:36pm EDT

1:30 pm
programs online at up next from the 2014 virginia festival of the book. little known stories from world war ii. >> as i said the virginia foundation for the humanities produces the virginia festival of the book, and we encourage everyone to support the festival and obtain at the omni hotel, and the donation helps sustain the program and continues it all. most of the programs are free of charge and it does help with the continuance of this. you will all have an evaluation form. please fill that out after the session is over. it is helpful for future programs of the festival.
1:31 pm
there will be a book sale. all three books will be available at the end of the program and just reminder also that a portion of the sale of each book goes into the virginia festival of the book program itself. the sessions are being recorded so during the question and answer period this is important because of the reporting of the programs. please raise your hand and one of the volunteers of the festival will hand you a hand-held microphone so your question can be heard and paid for however it hits the broadcast. the reason we have a wonderful program, features jan herman, the author of the lucky few:the fall of saigon and the rescue mission of the uss kirk.
1:32 pm
this will be the order of their presentation. second to speak will be general ira hunt, losing vietnam, how america abandoned southeast asia. he is a retired major general and moderated his last book at the book festival. the chief medical historian, frank leith jones, has offered -- offered 7 books for military history. and finally, frank leith jones, author of blowtorch, vietnam and american cold war strategy, will conclude today's program. he is a professor at the u.s. army war college at carlisle, pennsylvania and holds the eyes and our share of national security. the groundwork we need to cover and with that, clean the jan
1:33 pm
herman to begin the program. >> the story of u.s. ask kirk, a lucky few, the book i am speaking about. seems almost insignificant. it is unknown and untold and for a simple reason. it is a vietnam story. the most dramatic and divisive conflict since the civil war ended in chaos and some say shame. americans wanted nothing more to do with vietnam. nightmare best forgotten. a little story, an insignificant one, on the contrary, it is very much worth telling. allow me to let you sample late little piece of it. lt. bob wanted into the combat information center.
1:34 pm
amid the many radar scopes was a large radar repeater the consolidated information from the other displays. one look at the repeater screen put everything in perspective. each green blip was a ship of some sort making it easy to see the location of every craft on a master grid. but the screen image appeared on bond. the shoreline was out of focus. going topside to the flying bridge he grabbed the large binoculars and scanned the brightening horizon. the mystery of the battery radar screen instantly cleared of. hundreds of boats were headed out to sea in kirk's direction. as the distance closed he noted every type of watercraft from small fishing vessel to rubber raft. the lieutenant was shocked to see a small wooden dugout with the man, woman and two children clinging for dear life. as he recalled, on that dugout were all the family possessions including a small motor bike.
1:35 pm
these people were simply paddling out to see hoping to get to the rescue ships. the magnitude of the nation's final collapse suddenly became real and personal for this young navy lt.. for days prior to the fall of saigon the byproduct of that relentless conquest by the north vietnamese army, thousands of panicked refugees trying to flee the country in anything that would flow. on that same tuesday the 438 foot destroyer escort uss kirk was operating off the coast near the port of long chao. overhead, large c h 46 helicopters began shuttling american and vietnamese yvette hughie's from saigon. these vietnamese were the people who had helped us during the war whose lives were not going to be worth much once the north vietnamese took saigon.
1:36 pm
just as suddenly towards of unknown contacts began talking kirk's radar screens again. south vietnamese army and air force huey's were following the large american helicopters back out to sea and they were packed with fleeing refugees. chairman donald cox and ship's chief engineer recognized what was happening. we knew an evacuation was going on and with each helicopter that would pass us we had an open point. doyle and many other crew members were caught up in the excitement and saw the possibilities. lien never anticipated a helicopter landing on us but we started talking about it. wouldn't it be great to grab a helicopter? wouldn't it be great to take part in this? be careful what you wish for. an attempt to advertise kirk's hospitality, the ship's first-class door keeper who
1:37 pm
bespoke rudimentary vietnamese began broadcasting on the air distress frequency cough can 87, the whole number of kirk, lands here. 20 minutes later, airman gerald mcclellan waived his first qe on to the flight deck with a load of refugees. seemingly brand new helicopter was the keeper, the trophies they would bring home. the following night which should have been the 30th of april 1975 commander paul jacobs, the ceo of the ship received a cryptic message from the task force commander was ordered to dispatch the kirk's whaleboat to pull alongside the uss blue ridge and was to take aboard a mysterious passenger. that passenger was a man named richard armitage, a 3-year-old civilian. when he came aboard he incongruously dressed for the south sign it -- china sea, he
1:38 pm
was dressed in a sports coat, tie, and had 45 automatic in a shoulder holster. capt. jacobs said to him i am not used to having armed civilians come aboard my ship in the dead of night upon which our message entered in a very gruff voice i'm not used to coming the board on been a dead of night but i have a job to do. i work for the secretary of defense. on the edge then outlined what would be a secret mission for the kirk. the remnants of the south vietnamese navy, 32 ships in all would gather just off the south vietnamese coast glued to their job would be to rendezvous with these ships. at dawn the following day. and escort them across the south china sea to safety in the philippines. following morning as the kirk cool into view, the sun was just coming up and what was evident
1:39 pm
all around them, the 42 ships they expected but what they hadn't expected was what appeared to be a humanitarian disaster in the making. lieutenant hued oil like and what he thought to a bunch of hershey bars dropped on a hot summer sidewalk and all of them crawling with pants. the ceo recalled the scene. some of them were anchored, some were not, some were adrift, they were loaded with people all the way up to the bridge. i estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people, i said oh my god, this is going to be an insurmountable problem. how are we going to pull this off? just how u.s. as kirk pull off the rescue of estimated 30,000 refugees aboard those 32 ships is the real story. the subject of my book the lucky few. in 2009 i was completing a book intitled navy medicine in vietnam which told the story of
1:40 pm
my generation's war. the last chapter focused on the humanitarian task, medical personnel plating caring for the thousands of refugees who fled south vietnam when that nation sees to exist. to complete the last chapter i had to get the stories of the medical personnel who took care of those folks. after determining the names of the ships that comprise the seventh fleet task force i went to the internet as we all do now. i don't know what we did before the internet. to determine what vessels might have reunion organizations. the next step was e-mailing each organization to request information from those shot be. within an hour of hitting send captain paul jacobs, former skipper of the u.s. ask kirk called meat and told me what special role is it had played in this drama. i was phoneing and e-mailing other members of the crew.
1:41 pm
weaver invited to a reunion in suburban washington, following the event admiral robinson invited capt. jacobs to his headquarters in washington and invited me also to that lunge and during lunch the admiral turned to me and said you make documentary's. you must make a film about the u.s.s. kirk. people have to know about this untold story. i spent countless hours poring over the logs of this rescue. we went around interviewing members of the crew and vietnamese rig refugees.
1:42 pm
we assembled all the components and documentary's. the next kirk reunion which took place in july of 2010 the lucky few, the story of u.s.s. kirk, showed for the first time. that was the premier. shortly thereafter national public radio aired several stories about kirk's rescue mission. the three part in pr series won national acclaim and on veterans day, nov. eleventh 2010, we showed the lucky few at the smithsonian institution in washington. was interesting that a 1-hour film could scarcely do justice to the story. writing a book based on a lucky few documentary offered a few opportunities to tell more of the story and incorporate what had unfortunately ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor. as with many films the book
1:43 pm
comes first followed by the movie. i would reverse the order with the advantage of adding flesh to the bones of an already larger than life event. i had the opportunity to tell the story of an extraordinary ship and its crew. one of the players in the lucky few drama, who in 1975 was a high ranking official in the department of defense pointed out the story's true significance. after the war president ford's task force for the resettlement of indochina refugees resettled more the 130,000 the evacuees from laos, vietnam and communities in the united states. since u.s.s. kirk and her sister u.s. navy vessels save 30,000 south vietnamese refugees, that
1:44 pm
means one in four vietnamese resettled in the united states by that task force can trace their new beginning to the mission accomplished by u.s.s. kirk. the true significance of the rescue comes in the perspective in very ironic ways. limit tell you a story to illustrate my point. huge blue whale, the kirk's chief engineer, now lives near newport, road island. he gets his medical care at the naval station clinic which was run by the navy. two years ago he went to the clinic for his routine checkup and learned his regular physician had been reassigned to the naval test of -- hospital in pensacola, florida and had a new physician lieutenant commander van nguyen. he asked his new physician 9 notice you have a vietnamese name. how did your family get to this
1:45 pm
country? he responded didn't know about the family's exodus since he was a baby at the time. laurel's father had died and never said anything about it. his mother only spoke vietnamese and she never talked about it. pool will happen to havedoyle the lucky few and he gave it to dr. nguyen. did you see the film? i saw it but it didn't tell me much about my own story. it seems dr. nguyen's family settled in the san francisco bay area and flourished. his family never discuss their flight from vietnam. after he watched the documentary he had probing questions to ask the other members of his family including his older sister who had been 15 at the time of the exodus in 1975. dr. nguyen's sister and brother
1:46 pm
visited with him, taking their daughter to boston college and stayed with dr. nguyen and his family and he put the dvd on and put the film on the tv set and the daughter went crazy. not the daughter, his sister saw the ship in the film, she saw the whole number, hq 1. that was the vietnamese designation. she saw 8 k 1 and she got very agitated and started crying and said that is the ship we came over on. they escaped on that ship. he remembered a small navy ship coming alongside delivering rice and water and medical care and that ship of course was the u.s.s. kirk so doyle says another amazement what are the odds that this family would have escaped from vietnam? what are the odds they would
1:47 pm
have gone aboard a ship and gone from the island all the way across the south china sea to the philippines? from the philippines to a refugee camp in guam. whatever the odds they would have made it to california safely and he says what are the odds they would have sent their eldest son to medical school, he would excel as a physician, what are the odds he would have joined the navy and became a navy medical officer? what are the odds he would become my physician and start taking care of me? i will end by saying or asking the question, u.s.s. kirk, a small story, insignificant one. i hardly think so. read the lucky few and decide for yourself. [applause]
1:48 pm
>> thank you very much. now, ladies and gentlemen, general ira hunt and his book losing vietnam. >> thank you for coming. my book losing vietnam or how america abandoned southeast asia covers period 1973-75 after the peace treaty and after u.s. troops vacated south vietnam. headquarters in vietnam was moved in northeast thailand. its name was changed to united states support activities group and as under all the power of the seventh air force of the u.s. air force. it was combined headquarters run by air force with an army deputy and the mission was very simple, just to coordinate with joint chiefs of staff, to take command of a huge organization we had, to ensure cambodia got
1:49 pm
resupplied and also take command of whatever has given you for whatever reason, has happened three times, evacuate saigon and find a container ship. when i was appointed deputy commander i had to get up-to-date on the war. the war was still going on and the idea was how did this compare to the north vietnamese. at the time there with two studies, one by the north vietnamese and the other by the d a 0 in saigon. they all said exactly the same thing, south vietnam had much more firepower, tactical mobility, better strategic mobility, much better logistics'. if that is true you wonder how did south vietnam lose the war? that is the story of my book, how they lost the war. the south vietnamese strategy
1:50 pm
was wired in politics, it is all military strategy, they said they want to control all land and all people. they had 12,000 hamlets and the. s spread thin and had no reserves. the north vietnamese was the exact opposite. they wanted to grab land and grab people because that would give them sovereignty over south vietnam while they waited to make a push several years later they fired at the time. when i got in country the first thing i did was visit the joint chiefs of staff in saigon. the chairman was a friend of mine 68, 69 when i was there and i was getting briefed and i asked him who is creating all the violations of the peace treaty? he didn't answer me but he said i have a record of every violation.
1:51 pm
he said we have the size of the enemy, enemy killed, friendly killed, attacks by fire, a number of rounds, that is exactly the data we used in my division in '68, '69. in order to improve combat effectiveness, i said i have old building, a lot of smart analysts. we can take that data but better yet if you give us that data on a daily basis, we would analyze it and and give the parameters that i know would help improve your effectiveness and save lives. they agreed to that. we set of protocolss and went back and analyzed nine months of data he already had. december of 1973 i reported back to him. from your data, doing 90% of the attacks, we are beating around the years by washington, why are
1:52 pm
you fighting around the war. how important, whenever you attack you are much more eat fish and if and much more effective. i said besides that, analyzing your data you are so spread out. north vietnamese at any time they want to get a preponderant of force and taking your land and taking your people and if you don't get on the offensive you are going to lose your country so they went on the offensive. fantastic, much better, north vietnamese. inside of several months they gained back all their territory, all their people. they had under control 93% of the people in south vietnam but in july of that year congress reduced the amount of funding, gave them $700 million the we
1:53 pm
want you to pay $40 million. end you have not yet received $55 million and want you to pay for the packing of $30 million so $117 million leaving them 583 million, when you compare that to the year before which was $1.1 billion and consider petroleum increased 100%, ammunition increased its 69%, vietnamese had 37% of funding the year before. they were doomed to. they could not win the war, they could not buy their bullets or repair parts, they kind their belts, said i'm going to conserve ammunition and firing a lot of ammunition. the air force said we plant
1:54 pm
708,000 hours and cut it back to 332,000 to. why do we want you american contractors? we can't buy the repair parts for them to put in so we will cannibalize our own aircraft. shortsighted but important at the time. our headquarters were concerned about the reduction in funding and asked us to please determine what structures they need it. our staff did a great job and picked out four different structures and focused on but funding. if they get less than $1 billion they will lose the war. chris gave them several, we got and ask for supplemental from congress for $300 million. the president went and begged congress supplemental, kissinger went and begged for
1:55 pm
supplemental. all of these hot shots asking for money will get the money, we will be able to defend ourselves but they didn't change the strategy. they were still spread out and had no reserves so in november, very concerned about what was going on, every weekly analyzed and every week we get weaker and weaker. they didn't have the power, the air cover, but still much stronger than the north vietnamese. in march in that study we made, the vietnam assessment, we decided what would happen in march of 75 when the winter comes. we said the north vietnamese would go for a limited objectives if they had in the past, if they bring down two to five divisions, they only had
1:56 pm
five left in the north, they would overwhelm the south vietnamese. in march of that year when they did attacks they attacked us from all provincial capitals, they came with multiple divisions, lot of firepower. the vietnamese had no reserve. no big deal. there are only 5,000 troops, most of them were territorial. but it spooked the president who on his own without talking to his own people or the u.s. or anybody decided he was going to withdraw his forces from the north. a core area, bringing them back and have a cordon around saigon to protect saigon in the lush delta. withdrawing under pressure is a very difficult thing and he was bill conceived in what he said and it was totally unnecessary
1:57 pm
but his corps commanders did not plan well. it was a debacle. they brought five divisions from the north, they were heading towards saigon. north vietnamese ran into the eighteenth ordovician 40 miles north, the eighteenth upheld 2.5 of their division, the third day counterattacked and 331 division, the same division that put down their weapons and ran, this stopped for a week and nothing happened on the front the inside on the pot was boiling. political intrigue everywhere. the president got on an airplane and left for taiwan. the u.s. decided with the north vietnamese 18 divisions around saigon we better evacuate saigon
1:58 pm
and so the marines evacuated saigon. the new president sued for peace and war was lost. it was lost because of president tu's ill-conceived decision that was ill executed and totally unnecessary. the war was lost anyway because they didn't have the funds, could buy bullets, they were doomed to failure, running out of ammunition. it had not been served ammunition they would have run out before the end of december. our congress had abandoned south vietnam. let me talk about cambodia. cambodian 1970, their parliament unanimously overthrew prince i chian chianum. the man who took over, a friend of the west, his group closed
1:59 pm
the port where they got 60% of their supplies to fight south vietnam. what they did for the overthrow, you have three days to get out of our country, to leave your settlements in cambodia. that was the last, but it irritated the north vietnamese. they had to protect in order to fight south viet nam so they attack cambodia. that wasn't much of an attack. they didn't use much force because the cambodian army was weekend took two thirds of the country and they were moving on. that really upset the united states, we were going through the vietnamization program and pulling troops out so the u.s. attacked. limited time. ..
2:00 pm
some artillery and they were doing very well. in the summer of 74 they were holding their own. they cut it so bad that all they had in cambodia was to buy ammunition and no money for
2:01 pm
anything else. not clothing, they were called the ragtag army. not repair and their equipment was falling apart. we watched with great trepidation hi there and minisink kept drawing down wondering how long they could last but cambodia was different than vietnam. they didn't care bout the territory like president tui did. he was happy that his people that came into 14 enclaves all surrounded by the communists. the largest was phnom penh. phnom penh had 3.5 billion people to billion of which were refugees. they were fleeing the brutality the gross brutality of acondas in the countryside so we had to resupply these other 13 enclaves by air and air guard but phnom penh was certified to the viet cong river. in january 75 the chinese
2:02 pm
government gave some very sophisticated water minds to the khmer communist and they began sinking vessels on the viet cong. finally the medcom was closed and when that was close the war was lost. we evacuated again from phnom penh. the united states had projected cambodia and to two that were so our people could get out of south vietnam. so in all we evacuated laos cambodia and south vietnam all for southeast asia. i got my book published and out of the blue i got a letter from the secretary. i didn't know him and he said i want to congratulate you for setting the record straight. in his opinion and mine this sets the record straight on what
2:03 pm
happened in southeast asia. thank you very much. [applause] c. thank you very much general hunt for that enlightening discussion. to conclude today's program will be frank leith jones vietnam and the american cold war strategy. >> thank you offer coming this afternoon. if i mention the name robert coe heard today many people would not recognize it. 20 years ago that wasn't the case. over the last 10 or 20 years robert calmer's role in the vietnam war and the book really transcends that because he was a principle figure in the cold war era right from 1947 in that 30 year period it is best known for vietnam. he is forgotten except among perhaps vietnam vets and also
2:04 pm
scholars. but history and current events have a way of sometimes coming back together again. people are rediscovered. their ideas are rediscovered and that's the case with calmer. it would take two wars recent wars iraq and afghanistan to have his ideas about counterinsurgency be discovered again. while i was doing the research for this book i had the opportunity to go into neal sheehan's papers at the library of congress and we remember that mr. sheehan wrote a very famous book, and award winning book. in the notes that he took interviewed mr. komer and as i read the notes i was fascinated by it because he described mr. komer as a badger. i thought wow that's a very apt description from what i have heard.
2:05 pm
feisty, difficult, abrasive, and maybe even a snarl every once in a while. and a very much so they often use of earthy language. but the name of the book "blowtorch" comes from the vietnam era and it was a nickname that was given to him by then the u.s. ambassador. this was in 1966. the u.s. ambassador to south vietnam by the name of henry cabot lodge the second. now komer had been in early 1966 made a special assistant for the vietnam reconstruction and he was answering only to linda johnson. as a consequence he took on the mantle of the president. this was his responsibility to
2:06 pm
make pacification or counterinsurgency or vietnam at least from the white house standpoint. and he was trying to light a proverbial fire under henry cabot lodge. now henry cabot lodge was not a man that was easily moved. there's that old saying about in the boston area. he was the sign of a boston brahmin family but the cabot's only talked talk to the lodges in the lodges only. >> to god. but bob komer was irritating him and one day at a press conference in 1966 a. reporter asked the ambassador how are you getting along with robert komer? and he said dealing with robert komer is like having a blowtorch aimed at the seat of your pants. [laughter] i think that get you some idea of his personality. so who is this man?
2:07 pm
wellborn in the early 1920s in chicago. his father was an entrepreneurial man who moves his family outside of st. louis. his father and his mother and his younger sister. he is a precursor's child, graduates from high school -- precocious boy. he spends two years going to washington university but unlike another native son of that area ts elliott komer has a desire to leave. the mississippi river is not some vision as elliott said that created in his mind and gave life to his poetry. to komer as a barrier to be jumped over and he wants to move to a bigger world than just clayton missouri. and so after two years at washington university he enters harvard and he walks into those ironed cascades and the brick walls and he thrives. two years later in 1942 he will graduate magna cum laude phi
2:08 pm
beta kappa from harvard and he will find himself quickly a private in united states army. but he will be a combat veteran of that war. he will get a track commission as a military intelligence and he will then proceed to spend some time in 1945 and 46 writing a book for the army on the civil affairs, military governance of mandatory theater in that year. so he begins to understand the role of the military in nation-building. this will come back later. he returns to graduate school for his master's degree in business administration harvard is well and in 1947 shortly after president truman signs the national security act of that year he joins the central intelligence agency and for the next 13 years he will be an analyst and a nationalist and that intelligence agency and he will become well grounded in
2:09 pm
soviet as well as nonsoviet issues and then in 1961 because he is part of the cia apparatus that links up with the national security council in the eisenhower presidency he becomes he says a frustrated policymaker and he spends his time working on foreign-policy issues for the eisenhower administration and the cia. in 1961 john f. kennedy is elected. komer believes as he says my crockery, might pottery was smashed and i had to return to the cia but he doesn't. it turns out that george bundy the national security adviser asks him to stay on and he will stay on for the next five years on the kennedy and johnson, lyndon baines johnson's staff on the national security staff working on a number of issues. until a fateful day in march of 1966 when lyndon johnson calls into the oval office. you can imagine the texas drawl area to men alone in a room and
2:10 pm
he answers bob i wanted to do something about the war in vietnam. congress's reply is mr. president what is the war in vietnam? he says it's not that the war is destroying anything that i want part of that war to build up south vietnam. i want to develop economic way, politically and socially. i don't know anything mr. president about that. don't worry about it. i have plenty of people who know how to do that. i want some new blood. komer says one of his oral histories that term served him. he was wondering whose blood might be shed over this but he takes the job and from 1966 he spends as a special assistant for classification spends the next seven months every month going to vietnam. watching what's happening on the ground. and he hires a small staff and a couple of people or at least one of them is familiar to you today a young foreign service officer who was recommended to him by
2:11 pm
the name of richard holbrooke. known as ambassador holbrooke and a young military officer who later retired as a general by the name of robert montague. they would begin to figure out how they were going to make pacification the counterinsurgency for the united states and for the piece of work. he goes on for eight months and what he discovers is not that odd from what we hear in the early days of afghanistan. he finds an coordinator action. he finds a civilian and military not talking about these issues together. there is no planning. most of the assets available our military assets and so therefore the military has to do the transportation of goods and other types of services for the civilian agencies and after eight months he writes up with the help of holbrooke and montague a memorandum that's called a new thrust to pacification. what he argues and that is that instead of this fragmented approach that the government had
2:12 pm
in order to support the vietnamese and south vietnamese in their insurgency quest for counterinsurgency must bring together under single concept of a single management. johnson thinks that is the right answer but he has a couple of problems. the bureaucracy doesn't like the idea first of all and second of all a ambassador lodge doesn't like it and ambassador lodge is a republican in a democratic administration and shows and by johnson so he's -- johnson is a little bit worried about ruffling lodges feathers. he also believes that lodge will run for the presidency in 1968. and so for a few months he writes on and on and finally to the point when lyndon johnson who is a man with a temper gets frustrated and enough and says enough is is enough and we are going forward with the plan that
2:13 pm
komer put together and in may of 1967 at a year. then special assistant he finds himself on the tarmac of the airbase outside of saigon. he has now been told you build a mousetrap and you make it work. so he spends the next year and a half approximately into yet non trying to make that happen. the first thing he does throughout the 1967 is try to create this organization that he made on paper and he also recognizes he has a couple of other problems. one is that the vietnamese government is not exactly winning the war because of the insurgency. so he begins to think of ways that can be done and can be counted. and he comes up with the idea of putting together a way of eliminating the infrastructure, the cells of the insurgents and terrorists called ice ax.
2:14 pm
years later it gets a very less and more famous positive title by the name of phoenix. he decides what he has to do is illuminate the viet cong infrastructure. he will spend most of 1967 trying to get that off the ground. but as my colleagues mentioned there are changes in governance in vietnam and until 1967 in september there is not a firm government in place. there were many changes. komer eventually gets his own organization up and running and he always believes this organization civil operations and revolutionary support is to get the vietnamese to do the counterinsurgency for themselves and the united states would help them. so what he creates is a whole
2:15 pm
infrastructure of capability within the american forces civilian and military, united together under this effort and creates and works with the south vietnamese government to build up the capability to take on the insurgency. by the end of 1967 komer and many other americans believe that they are beginning to see the proverbial light at the end of the
2:16 pm
2:17 pm
it turns out to be the key element. because president subeightesubeighte in begins to see the power that can be brought to bear if they work together with the americans and as a consequence of his helping with the recovery after the devastation of ted there was a
2:18 pm
mobilization of capability and there's a dedication on the part of the vietnamese government to begin to focus on insurgency. in june of 1968 westmoreland leaves and is replaced by the deputy and unfortunately the relationship between komer and abrams is not good. it had not been good since they met each other a year earlier. in doing the research at the center of military history and wash it and i was able to under under -- uncover a letter from komer tube general abrams in july that year and it was addressed dear general i must say that i was really disappointed today. you embarrass me in front of my own personnel by ridiculing me in front of them. if you want me to leave just
2:19 pm
tell me and i will go. i will cause no fuss. consequently he did and abrams blinked. komer state and he realized his relationship was so bad that he would probably have to leave himself and a few months later lyndon johnson gave him a way out. johnson was leaving in november and he made him the u.s. ambassador to turkey. i began by saying that sometimes ideas come full circle and i think that's only for that three-year period which homer -- komer rand the re-pacification program it's interesting how his ideas and he wrote about after the war in 1970 and two and 1986 and a book called the bureaucracy of war came back and were rediscovered by the u.s. military in 2006 as result of iraq and afghanistan.
2:20 pm
his ideas were incorporated into the field manual for 3-24 on counterinsurgency and so that became part of his legacy and the other part is that the 1972 bureaucracy became required reading among officers assigned to multinational force iraq strategy office very those where the officers that would deal with the insurgency in iraq so the ideas that he had created in vietnam and written about in the 70s and 80s came to be, again something people realized had value. the last point i would say is that what cromer did was recognize something that the american military are haps had lost over the years after vietnam and that was the recognition of how insurgencies are formed, and that they are both vertical issues and horizontal. by that i mean they are horizontal in the sense that civilian capabilities,
2:21 pm
intelligence aid and oteri must be harnessed together across the agencies and vertical, a single manager in this case running from saigon to the hamlets who could look at what was happening on the ground and with that robert komer's role and his legacy was rediscovered 20 years after vietnam and his writings have ceased to be read anymore. thank you. [applause] c. thank you very much frank. i would like to say something personal here. when he came into the room if you saw the campus that display on the outside that's something we have heard about everything that is happening in washington and other higher echelons but the guys on the ground and the guys going to war they left a legacy too and if you look at the graffiti on those campuses
2:22 pm
they were from a ship that i happen to find along with my wife who is sitting in the audience in virginia's james river reserve fleet, the ghost fleet off of fort hughes does. this was one of the ships that was being employed the p2 class transport carrying american soldiers and marines from vietnam in 1966 and 1967. the idea was to get complete units over in their entirety rather than replacements. the boy voyage is lasted anywhere up to 21 days and during that time aboard the ships it was not just the general nelson walker that material came from but there were other ships, about 19 of them. the men obviously were bored. it was a long voyage and for those at that time they would leave graffiti on the other side of the bunker camp -- campuses above them. these were four and five
2:23 pm
hyperion back graffiti tells the human side of the story of the men on the ground because they were going to war not knowing if they were coming back and when you leave this room today just go outside and look at that, the words that were left in the legacy that they have left and because they were very proud of their hometown we have been able to actually find those men and with the assistance of the virginia foundation for the humanities who sponsors the virginia festival of the book we were able to record those reminiscences of their voyage over and how young americans, many 18 and 19 felt having no knowledge of a going on in these other higher echelons about their destiny. gentleman i thank you very much for your participation. we will have time now for questions and answers and remember please raise your hand and a microphone will be passed to you.
2:24 pm
a microphone here please. >> mr. jones, how would you comment about the marine corps's work of pacification of the hamlets in i corps along the dmz and secondly could you give us a feeling for the work that komer did and how does that work to the writings and work of general petraeus? >> i assume you're talking about the combined action of the potenza and how that worked. i will talk from robert komer in general westmoreland's view. a great idea and a great deal of respect for what the marines were doing in that area in the
2:25 pm
eye corps area but a concerned and the concern was that when you have so many thousands of hamlets how do you have enough u.s. capability to match up with the vietnamese popular forces to a degree that you get courage and there was a concerned that those were manpower intensive capabilities that the marines had and could you duplicate a rapid rate that throughout vietnam? it was a real difference of opinion here between how the marines saw the action of pacification and how the army did and cromer tended to view that was an excellent process but it was limited in scope and couldn't be done. in terms of general petraeus i think what occurred with pre-24 was a recognition by a number of historians, military historians
2:26 pm
men and women who served in that period of time and scholars who went back and began to look at the french, the british from the malaysia experience and the vietnam experience and began to pull or rediscoverediscove r those threads and put them back together again so 3-24 that field manual is the representation of taking various threats of counterinsurgency theory that existed from the 1950s all the way through comber's time and then beginning to reassess it and see how it could be put into the modern context or contemporary context. >> i worked in the cords program in 69 and 70 and one of the important aspects of that was the use of mobile advisory teams
2:27 pm
that were like the cat teams up north with the marines took a marine squad and put it in a village primarily military operations. there were other kinds of assistance as well. mobile advisory teams worked with the cords program to the district teams province teams right on up the line not only doing military operations but also helping and a large wave with civil assistance of those teams were more complex in their mission and were smaller to put out in little villages with only five men on the team, very difficult jobs. but both the cat marines and army the army mobile advisory teams along with the district teams were important in percolating komer's ideas
2:28 pm
through people like jp mann on down into the villages which overall became a very effective counterinsurgency program which is a different thing attributing to victory or not when you compare it with the army of vietnam forces on the other side >> going back to the other gentleman's question i think that points to the smaller teams which is why we were less manpower intensive and the overall idea of this is komer's philosophy and this goes to the earlier question is that the idea was to ensure that the south vietnamese were running the insurgency -- counterinsurgency program through either the revolutionary development teams and their cadres and the people responsible for the social political and economic development in district areas as well as the security which also had to come from the south vietnamese army so i think those are coupling military and kate
2:29 pm
kate -- capabilities. >> i have often wondered in all the histories that i have read the vietnam, nobody has been able to talk about what was the north vietnamese objective and as a historian myself i'm interested in two points. one is can we really write a history of vietnam until we get into the archives in noi and find out what the long-term strategic initiatives and objectives were for all of southeast asia? is a subset of that years later i was in a meeting with the president of singapore and he said he felt eventually history would judge the american experience in vietnam as a major strategic american victory in the war. thoughts? >> i in prejudiced because i do feel that we were winning the war and i feel out of that came
2:30 pm
some good things which we are talking about now which is pacification. there are three parts to pacification in the first part is security. you have to drive the enemy out in the second part we set up a political park within the village or the hamlet and the third part is the development. you have to develop it. we didn't until after tet have the ability after the americans drove the people out to set down and put the political in place. but they built after tet rfp f. the popular regional forest and something which nobody talks about. the people's self-defense force, they took 2 million people and these people then would settle in the villages so i agree that
2:31 pm
courts was a wonderful thing. i think pacification took off but it didn't take off until after tet in the summer of 68. they didn't have the means to do it. i think the north vietnamese eventually the program read a lot of the resolutions was just to fight the pacification program that south vietnam was putting in. they were scared to death of that because they were getting the people under their hands. the fact that they wanted and they didn't have a grand strategy. they took advantage of what was an ill-conceived idea. >> any other questions? down here. >> i wonder if the panel would like to comment on the role that the usaid in vietnam? the reason i ask is because i was there for six weeks during the east offensive than he would have later came back for another six weeks and i've written up my own experiences which are not at
2:32 pm
pardon at this moment that i wonder if overall the usaid had a positive role or a negative role or whether you have any comments you could share with me >> i would have to say that the general view prior to 1967 was that the agency for international development did not have the capability to fulfill the mission that they had. i say that not because of the people involved were ignorant of what was happening in the country or incapable but part of the problem that comber -- komer discovers and early 1967 is that the aid would get to the port and then in saigon outside of saigon and they wouldn't be able to get into the increments in that required the military that the aircraft from the air force in particular to be able
2:33 pm
to get it to locations or they had to go up the roads which were often sites for ambush. so i think that was what was recognized by eight officials and by foreign service officers at the state department. people much like yourself who began to see the value of linking up the military and the civilian. that's my impression from 67, 68 period
2:34 pm
they are late middle-aged folks and they love their ship. as anyone in the navy has a special affection for sailors have for their ships. >> ladies and gentlemen your panel for the vietnam -- [applause] remember, please fill out your
2:35 pm
evaluatioevaluatio ns. we will have a book signing in and have a good day and enjoy yourself at the festival. [inaudible conversations] up next from the 2014 festival of the book a panel of little-known stories from world war ii. [inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. my name is art beltrone and i will be the moderator for this afternoon's world war ii prograr


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on